Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Prosciutto Crusted Quiche for One

 Single serving quiches and grain-free options abound on the internet but most of them don't really suit me.  Either they aren't really quiche or they aren't really crusted, more like baked scrambled eggs or a tart-crust that doesn't work so well with savory quiche ingredients.  I've also seen options that use bacon or ham as the crust but neither of those are dry enough to create a good crust.  Ham gave me a soggy-bottomed product and bacon shrunk up too much, letting the quiche leak out to engulf the meat.  Prosciutto shrinks but not so much and doesn't add much of its own liquid to the quiche.  As long as the prosciutto lines the baking dish completely without tears, the egg custard is well-contained.

Another problem plaguing the recipes I found online were the wild variations in egg-liquid-fat proportions.  Some were all egg; some were mostly cream. And some used low-fat milks and egg whites for "healthy quiche" that just made inedible food-like substances.    I often found myself running out of custard when filling different sized tins and having to guess-timate how to make up the difference.  I needed to find a way to make a little or a lot of custard and know that it would still taste right.  I searched classic recipe sites and older cookbooks for the right proportion of egg to dairy that would provide the rich creamy custard but remained adaptable to any size quiche.

Classic Quiche Ratios

1 egg : 1/2 C dairy : 1/3 C cheese : 2/3 C filling

For every egg, use 1/2 cup dairy (preferably full-fat or more), 1/3 cup cheese, and 2/3 cup of meat or vegetable fillings.  Fillings can be any kind of cooked meat or vegetables: most commonly bacon, ham, or sausage, mushrooms, onions, greens, and fresh herbs.  Asparagus, peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, broccoli, leeks, pretty much anything.  Traditionally, quiche was a means of cleaning up leftover foods. It is only important that everything be cooked to remove the liquids from the foods that would compete with the custard.  Fillings should be fairly dry to keep the quiche from sogginess. 

Made in a jumbo muffin tin, these mini quiches are the perfect size for a hearty brunch.  For smaller appetites, the regular sized muffin tins are a better option.  I would also assume that this quiche could be made in a traditional 9-inch pie tin but I haven't tried it myself.  

To make the pictured quiches, use a jumbo non-stick muffin tin.  Do not grease or line with muffin cups. The combination of non-stick pan and prosciutto works just fine. I haven't tried this recipe without a non-stick pan.

Thinly slice 16 ounces of white or brown mushrooms and sauté in butter.  When they are nearly done, add 1 clove garlic, minced, and the finely sliced whites and the sturdier greens of 3 or 4 scallions, reserving the thinner greens for later.  Sauté the onions until translucent and the mushrooms are crisp on the edges.  Remove to paper towels to drain.  Julienne or finely chop a handful of fresh green herbs or baby spinach.  I think I used chives and spinach here. Keep the uncooked greens to no more than a 1/2 cup or they will add too much liquid to the custard.  The total volume of prepared filling ingredients should be 2 cups.

Grate 1 cup of peccorino romano. It is a very dry cheese so it keeps the quiche less soggy.  Other cheeses can be used but softer ones may create a bit more wetness and need a little longer to bake.  Romano or Parmesan also brown nicely on the top of the quiche. 

In a pourable bowl, whisk 3 eggs, 1 cup whole milk, and 1/2 cup cream.  Salt to taste, about 1 teaspoon, and a few grinds of black pepper.

I use prosciutto from Costco that comes in a double 12-ounce pack with 24 slices in each pack.  This recipe will use 12 ounces/about 24 slices of prosciutto.  Cut the whole stack of slices in half the short way.  Then arrange 3 or 4 half-slices of prosciutto in each muffin cup to line the sides and bottom completely.  Some shrinkage will happen so make sure that the prosciutto stands up a bit over the top of the cup.  These paper-thin slices tear easily so work carefully and layer as needed to cover holes. 

Add the mushrooms, scallions, and herbs or spinach, about 1/3 cup total, to each prosciutto-lined cup.  Add about 2 tablespoons grated cheese to each cup, on top of the fillings.  Fill each cup with the egg custard.  Add a bit of herbs, greens, or scallion rings to the top. 

Bake at 350F for 35-40 minutes until the centers of the quiches are set and won't stick to a sharp knife inserted in the center.  There may be a bit of wobble.  Don't overcook.  Remove and cool in the pan for about 15 minutes.  Gently slide a wooden skewer or other non-stick-safe utensil around the quiches to separate from the pan.  Lift carefully in case some custard leaked (which is very likely) and stuck to the bottom.  If the eggs were fully set in the baking, they won't stick badly and will remove easily with careful treatment. Makes six.

Serve warm or cold with salad for brunch or supper, or with fruit and bread for breakfast. To serve at a later time, cool completely on a rack and refrigerate in a covered dish.  Reheats well in a microwave with a damp paper towel in 60-90 seconds.  

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Clean Out the Refrigerator Soup

As might be expected from the name, this soup is never the same meal twice.  Based on ingredients that are sitting around in the fridge getting ignored, the soup develops a flavor distinct to the leftovers from the previous week or so.  This version has a tex-mex, taco-y sort of flair largely because I was in a Mexican mood when I was buying vegetables but no one made mexican when they were cooking.

Clean Out the Refrigerator Soup

In the remains of last night's hamburger frying in the big cast iron skillet, I added the fat and cartilage scraps from some big steaks a few days ago. When it was hot, I added the last 1/2 cup or so of the Jamesons bottle and about 3/4 liter of bottled water that I found on the counter.  I scraped up the frond, let the mess come to a boil, then turned it down to a simmer while I made the rest of the soup.

Into another covered pot, I put the last 3/4 cup dried black beans from a bag in the pantry and covered it by two inches with water.  I brought this to a boil, covered, for five minutes, then turned off the heat, do not uncover, and let rest for 45-60 minutes.

In the bottom of a big soup pot, I poured a thin shimmer of olive oil and added several whole mini sweet peppers, searing all sides until the skin is well-browed, preferably blistery and a bit black. I removed to another dish to cool.  Then I added about 2 pints of whole grape tomatoes, letting them blister and soften,  without stirring, while I sliced or chopped carrots, celery with leaves, an Anaheim chili, and ear of raw sweet corn, three leftover cooked hamburgers, several shallots and three large cloves of garlic.  When the tomatoes began to split open and the juices mingle with the olive oil into a thickening slurry, I added the shallots and garlic and several grinds of pink salt, stirring briefly.  Cook until the shallots are translucent and the slurry begins to brown at the edges (do not let burn).

Then I added the carrots, celery with leaves, the Anaheim chili, and the hamburger to the tomato sauce. Stirred, salted again, and left it to sweat while waiting for the beans and the beef stock.  I sliced the remaining half serving of steak for garnish, chopped a handful of fresh oregano, and prepped the last of the cilantro and oregano for garnish.  When the sweet peppers were cool enough to handle, I sliced the softened flesh, discarding the seeds, stems and less-cooked parts.  I didn't add them until the end because long-cooked peppers disagree with me.  Same with the roasted cauliflower.

When the meat stock is flavorful (and reduced to about half), I strained it into the soup pot, reserving the scraps for the dogs.  After letting the beans sit in their water for nearly an hour, I drained and rinsed them, and added them also to the soup pot.  I also added three bay dried bay leaves, a dusting of cinnamon and cayenne, a pinch of chili powder, some ground black pepper, and a bit more salt.  Stir and let simmer until the beans absorb enough liquid to be soft, about 30 minutes.

Add in more liquid as necessary, a Corona would have been good. Stir in the sweet peppers, oregano, and cauliflower.  While those flavors mingle, score an avocado and slice a lime.

Also in the fridge was some spicy cole slaw I made a few days ago with shredded cabbage, grated carrot, celery, and slivered shallots, Anaheim pepper, and Fresno chili, dressed with lime juice, cilantro, and sour cream.  It wasn't great as a slaw but it adds a nice dimension of crunch and spicy chili bite to the soup, when added at plating.  Garnish with a few steak slices, diced avocado and a squeeze of lime.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Spaghetti Bolognese with Blackened Seared Tomatoes

I started out to make another dish entirely but as I was searing the tomatoes, I felt my vitality drain right out through my feet.  I had outrun my available energy and needed to lay down.  My hysterical illness does that to me when I attempt too much.

So, there is a pan full of blackened grape tomatoes that needs to become dinner and my husband steps in to turn it into his classic spaghetti bolognese.  I can't tell you exactly what went into this particular sauce since I was in another room with my feet up but from what it tasted like and what we had in the house, I can make an educated guess.

Sauce Bolognese with Blackened Seared Tomatoes

I know it started with a pint of grape tomatoes, halved, and placed skin side down in a very hot, dry, cast iron skillet.  The skin will blacken and the juices will begin to evaporate.  Don't stir, or stir ever so carefully if necessary, because if the juices drip into the skillet, they will burn and cause everything to stick.  When the skins are blistered and blackened and the flesh of the tomatoes has started to collapse, drizzle heavily with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher or sea salt.  Stir to coat the tomatoes.

Add 1 medium white or yellow onion, diced, and 3 cloves of garlic, minced. Sprinkle with salt and let sweat until the onions are mostly opaque.  Add a double handful of white or brown mushrooms, halved and thinly sliced. Sweat with the tomatoes and onions until the edges of the mushrooms develop a golden crust and the onions are translucent.  Add 1 lb ground beef, salt, pepper, and stir to break up the beef into tiny bits.

When the beef begins to brown, stir it up and add chopped fresh herbs, a handful each of oregano, basil, thyme.  When the herbs have become fragrant, add a long splash of white wine, and 1 15oz can Muir Glen tomato sauce. Stir and let simmer while the pasta cooks.

Pasta Tips

Cook pasta in plenty of water, crowding the pasta in the pot results in gummy noodles.  Salt the water well before adding the pasta but do not add oil.  The salt will be absorbed into the pasta, improving the taste.  Oil in the water will inhibit that osmosis.  Pasta should be cooked until the noodle will give to the pressure of the tooth when biting but not be still crunchy in the middle.  Do not overcook.  Err on undercooking because further cooking can take place after mixing with the sauce.  Drain but not vigorously, leave a bit of starchy cooking water to the noodles and do not add oil.  This starchiness binds the sauces to the pasta, helping to marry the flavor of the sauce to the noodles themselves. Toss the drained pasta into the sauce and toss to coat--if there isn't room in the sauce pan, return the pasta to the pot it was cooked in an add the sauce.  Add grated parmesan or romano at this stage so that it melts easily and incorporates well, becoming an integral part of the sauce itself.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Tuna Salad in Romaine Leaves

I used tiny heads of romaine that I get from Costco in five packs.  Chop off the root end and gently separate into leaves.  Clean if necessary.  The outer leaves work best for this recipe, save the inner smaller leaves for dipping into hummus or baba ganoush or spread with nut butter and craisins.

Tuna Salad

For this meal, I used one can of Whole Foods mercury-free tuna and one pouch of light chunk tuna in sunflower oil.  Put the tuna into a mixing bowl and break up the fish into small flakes or chunks with a fork.  Add the to bowl 1 medium shallot, finely diced, 3 thin stalks of organic celery with their leaves, thinly sliced and chopped; 1 carrot, grated; a 1 inch wedge of green cabbage, shredded, 2 Claussen kosher dill pickle spears, seeds removed, diced; small handful of fresh cilantro, finely chopped.  

Mix ingredients well before adding dressings to avoid clumping of ingredients and to check the proportions of add-ins.  Add more vegetables as desired.  Add about 1/4 cup Brianna's Champagne Vinaigrette, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, and 1/3-1/2 cup Hellman's mayonnaise.  Mix well.

Spoon into romaine leaves, alternating the direction of the leaves on the serving plate.  Sprinkle the plate with celery seeds and fresh ground pepper.  Salt, if desired.